KFC – Not too Chicken to own up to their problems in this PR strategy masterclass

Imagine being a bakery without bread, a coffee shop without coffee – or perhaps a chicken restaurant without chicken.  Even if the unimaginable happens to your business, it doesn't need to end in a #disaster.  It is, sometimes, possible to turn a disaster into an opportunity through the utilisation of a well-thought-out PR strategy. 

Well, that's exactly what happened to the UK arm of fast-food giant KFC earlier this month.  After changing chicken suppliers, KFC were left without chicken for a number of days.  Instead, franchisees were faced with the decision to either shut up shop or only offer popcorn chicken, coleslaw and gravy.  Not ideal.  

So what do you in this situation?  Do you sweep the problem under the carpet and hope no one notices (hint: this is never the answer) or do you face the music by acknowledging the blunder and move on? 

KFC chose the latter – and might I add, nailed its execution.  Taking out full page advertisements in local papers across the UK, the chicken retailer issued the following statement:

What do we think of KFC's strategy? 

Gaga Goes Gaga for KFC Response

KFC's response was brilliant.  This finger-licking good PR strategy contains all the necessary ingredients for a successful outcome.  KFC's combination of humour (by playing on the acronym of KFC), with the frankness of the circumstance, is a great way to own up to an unfortunate situation.

The Twittersphere shared the love, and also enjoyed the strategy employed by KFC with some users saying: 

Some Twitter users were less than impressed with the fact that they had been brought into the #KFCCrisis – with one local police twitter account having to explain that KFC lacking stock had nothing to do with them:

Key takeaways  from the #KFCrisis: 

  • Own it!  Mistakes can happen to the best of us.  Owning the situation takes the speculation element out of the scandal and allows you to control what gets said about your brand.  You should always take the opportunity to clarify the situation.  It's important that when you do address the issue by making a public statement, that you don't come across as either defensive or argumentative – but instead take the opportunity to apologise for any inconvenience caused to any affected customers.
  • Be brief.  Short, sharp and simple statements pack a bunch and are more effective – particularly if you are making your statement on social media.  On average, a social media user will only spend a few seconds reading a post.  
  • Stand out!  With the limited amount of time you have to make an impression on social media users, it's important for you to devise a strategy that is likely to catch their attention.

Whether or not profanities are in your vocabulary, it is human nature to be intrigued by such language, particularly when used in print media.  KFC cleverly danced around the line, by rearranging the letters in their logo to draw readers in and to dupe them into thinking the f-bomb was dropped.  Whilst we don't recommend dropping profanities in your next PR statement, it might be worth having a think about including some eye catching and clever material that appeals to the curiosity of your readers.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation to the #KFCcrisis?  Tweet us your mishap and let me know how you handled the situation @ColemanGreig!  

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